Thursday, August 21, 2008

Navigating in West Virginia

I once considered myself to have good navigation skills. I liked to try new ways to get from point A to point B. I was confident that I could figure out how to get somewhere even if I'd never been that way before. And if I had a map in my hand, well, I could get anywhere.

I did not realize that I was simply spoiled. Spoiled by navigating roads that generally went the direction they started. Spoiled by roads that were labeled and maps that matched.

When I moved to the land of ridges and hollows, I quickly learned that my Northern navigation skills meant diddly squat here. Roads that appear to go west will actually end up taking you east. Not that I can ever tell which direction I'm heading in anyway here. The curves and hills mess with your sense of direction. I learned that trying an unknown way only leads to burning a lot of gas, seeing a lot of country side, and feeling like you'll never find your way out of all the twists and curves. Driving here is like navigating a huge labyrinth. I learned to only go ways I'd gone before, or to get very specific directions from those who knew the way.

Today there was a swim party for our homeschool co-op at a family's home I'd not been to before. They gave very specific directions from a variety of nearby places. The trouble with all these directions though is that from my house they made a big U, traveling south, going east, and then north again. Shouldn't I be able to just go straight east and get there faster?

So, I got out the county map. The swim party was just into the next county (of which I don't have a map,) but I could see one of the roads listed on the directions. Lo and behold it was directly east of me. And the "big" road I live near turns into another "big" road. (This is something I just don't get here. Roads are essentially the same road, but at some point get a new name. It is all so confusing!) This second big road goes directly to the road on the directions to the party. I felt like I'd just found the Northwest Passage. (Except I was going northeast, but you get the point.)

We set out this morning and headed to the "big" road. I am familiar with this road, but have not traveled it beyond where it turns into the second "big" road. We were traveling along observing the scenery. We saw the electric company trimming trees with a helicopter in a hollow. (Oh why didn't I get out the camera?) We saw a wide variety of beautiful homes, and some that were not so beautiful. We saw three housing developments on this winding curving in the middle of nowhere road. We were enjoying the country drive.

From the map the road we were traveling appeared to be the only sizable road. The road did twist and curve and at times would branch off. Of course there were no road signs to show which road was which, but this didn't phase me much. I just stuck to the bigger road.

At one point I did begin to wonder if I were still on the right road. I tried to draw on a northern navigation skill, looking at the address on the mailboxes, only to remember that mailboxes here are marked not with road names, but with some strange RR code that only makes sense to postal workers.

Suddenly the road had not more lines painted on it. Then it began to narrow. Soon I was on a one lane road in the bottom of a hollow. Could this still be the road I thought it was?

I really began to wonder when I came to a T in the road. I saw no T on the map I was looking at. Where was I? There also were no road signs. Having the map was no help, even if I were still in the right county. Left or right?

Luckily for me there happened to be some state road maintenance workers there. I asked if I should turn right or left to get to the road on my directions.

They looked at me funny.

And said that left would take me to some place I'd never heard of. Right would take me to a road I do know, but not the road I named, if I turned left after this bridge and right at this fork and right again at the old barn, or something like that. (I later realized that the road they mentioned was actually just another name for the road on the directions. I did know that the road changed names, but it didn't register in my confused state.)

I looked at them funny.

And asked if I was still on the second "big" road.

They looked at me funny again.

And said no you are on some road I've never heard of. Then they asked me where I was actually trying to go. I told them. they consulted each other on the best way to get there, and offered to take me to the road where the pool party was.

I looked at them funny again.

And they explained that they were waiting for asphalt. The truck had just left and had to go to a "nearby" town for the refill. It would be at least an hour, and they didn't have anything better to do. Well I think helping a lost mom with four kids is a better use of our tax dollars than just sitting there waiting don't you? The whole crew loaded up in the truck for the ride.

They must of driven me at least five miles to get to the road I needed to be on. Then they pulled off to the side and waved me on. We waved our thanks and followed the directions that led us straight to the house.

I'm forced to admit I can't navigate the back roads of West Virginia, even with a map. In case you are wondering, we followed the directions home, making a huge U and enjoying every minute of it.


  1. Honey, NOBODY can. That RR code? It doesn't make sense to the postal workers either. I've lived here all my life and still can't do it. I thought I'd never get out Hurricane Creek yesterday and like you, I wondered if I'd taken a wrong turn and surely I was in Lincoln Co. by now! I did manage to stay on the right road but only by luck I assure you. Chris gripes and complains about WV roads all the time and he drives them for a living! He says it'll drive a person to cuss when he stops to ask if they know where so and so road is and they say something like "well,, you know where that Johnson boy shot that bear?" and he's like "no, I know nothing of your local folk lore, just tell me the REAL NAMES OF THE ROADS!"
    Every road around here has 4 different names. The frustrating thing is that the people who LIVE ON THE ROAD refuse to use the real name. They claim they don't know it, but they do. It's the WV way, stubborness. One of these days Chris is going to have to tell you some of this Tales From the Road. Really funny.

  2. ROFLMBO! I'm sorry but that is so funny. I had to call Pam for some clarification yesterday but at least I was on the right road
    (with one tiny bar on my phone). :D

  3. Well there is some comfort in knowing that it isn't just me! :)

    I didn't mention in the story either that I was almost out of gas. I was sweating it, but we were ok.

    My mom works in the call center for AEP and boy does she have some stories to along the lines of what Crystal mentioned. She will ask people for their physical address and they have no clue. They only know the RR code they use for mail!

    I could not be a delivery driver here. I'd go insane!

  4. We lived through that a couple of weeks ago. You forgot to mention the roads that don't have names and the towns that don't have addresses for the houses. We asked some of Ernie's family for directions and they ended up reminiscing over how long it had been since they had been there. LOL! We stuck with the way we knew, too!

  5. At least you didn't run out of gas!

  6. I'd love to know what the kids were doing...saying...asking during all of this. I bet that, alone, is a story!

  7. Cheryl,
    You would think that the kids would have some good ones, but really they didn't say much. The two youngest fell asleep. Lydia was kind of in her own world, and Kellen just kept asking, "Mom, where are we?" and "How much longer?" Both of which I had to answer, "I have no idea."

  8. AWWWW my beautiful homestate of West Virginia.
    Learning to drive on the hills and curves and hollers. Country Roads Take Me Home.

    Pamela in Michigan

  9. I grew up in Nashville with real paved roads. (Although even there names change - 21st Avenue turns into Hillsboro Road, Broadway turns into West End - But THEY"RE MARKED!)
    I however, have NO sense of direction. I could get lost in a closet. However, I do pretty well with a map
    So when I got to eastern Kentucky?
    Yeah. Our road actually has a name (of course, it turns off the main road twice and curves around about 18 different times, but anyway), but it's off a road that is marked at one end, but nowhere else along the way. I used to drive to other counties for my job and I NEVER knew where I was. And I've lived in my house for 5 years, and the road twists and turns so much on the way to town, that I can't stand on my porch and point to which way is town. The Mountain Man says that on his drive to work in the morning, the sun will be in his eyes one minute, then behind the car the next. It's nuts.
    So CONGRATULATIONS for making it!

  10. OH my word!!!!! My parents just moved back to my home town where I grew up in NY - and I still only travel on roads that I've been on before. The whole eastern seaboard needs a complete overhaul!


  11. When we lived in DC it was horrible, the roads were crooked, unmarked and narrow then if you paused even the slightest moment in confusion at an intersection cars would start honking unmercifully.


    So did you say exactly that? "Am I still on the Big Road?" :) No wonder they looked at you funny.

  12. At The Seaside


    When I was down beside the sea

    A wooden spade they gave to me

    To dig the sandy shore.


    The holes were empty like a cup

    In every hole the sea camp up,

    Till it could come no more.

    -----by age of conan